Saturday, December 28, 2013


As usual, Christmas was too fast, and too furious, at least for this pit bull. First, my parents hauled me across the canyon to Taco's house for a late breakfast, then it was back in the car for a schlep to W. Hollywood and a visit with the Spirito cousins, Chris and Ingrid, and their sons, Jack & Dylan. After Lou stuffed himself on antipasto, homemade lasagna, meat balls, sausage and cookies, it was back on the road for a 2-hour trek to deliver Eugenie's mom, Melissa, back to Palm Springs. By the time we rolled into her place, I felt like Santa after the Christmas push; I was too beat to even touch my dinner. The only bright spot was Lou sleeping on the aero bed, which meant I got to crawl in with him and spend a few hours snoring nose-to-nose. Can't do that at home but that's what holidays are for, right? It was awesome and I can see why mom likes to snuggle with him.
with Taco, aka 'The Nasty Little Dog'

We came home to news that Diesel Books, our local mom & pop bookseller, had sold all their copies of GIMME SHELTER, which placed 16th on their '50 TOP-SELLING BOOKS OF 2013', ahead of some pretty big names. Word is Diesel plans to close its doors unless they find a buyer. Hope some literary angel steps up and keeps our favorite venue going.

Sunday, December 22, 2013


With Christmas only a few days off, I wanted to share a pretty cool experience that my mom, Eugenie, had this week. She was driving to work in Malibu when traffic suddenly ground to a halt. She glanced across the highway to the lush Pepperdine University lawn where she saw a dozen deer charging down the hill, followed by a free roaming dog. Just as the deer reached the edge of the highway, the dog's owner appeared and called him off. Poised on the edge of the blacktop, Rudolph and company about-faced and headed back toward the mountains, where a fat dude in a red suit was waiting beside a cherry red Camaro. Really.

A nativity scene was erected in a church yard. During the night, workers can across this scene. The dog…a Shepherd 
                                                                ~ ~ ~
About MABEL, a pit bull rescue from the Central Coast, north of Santa Barbara. She's in need of a great home and this video shows just how lucky whoever steps up will be. If you or someone you know wants to adopt this ray of 'Sunshine', get in touch and we'll connect you with her volunteer caretakers. 
                                                               ~ ~ ~
Since we're spinning yarns and touting great dogs, here's an excerpt from GIMME SHELTER about my first Christmas with Lou and Eugenie. Enjoy, and Buon Natale, Feliz Navidad, Joyeux Noel or just have a Merry! - "There’s magic in the scent of a real Christmas tree. One whiff of a Scotch Pine or a majestic Douglas Fir and I’m seven again, scouring the Sears Catalog, scribbling Christmas lists, and baking cookies for Santa. Dogs aren’t quite that nostalgic. For them, a real tree is just a handy porta-potty. With that in mind, we skipped the walk down memory lane and settled for an unholy fiber optic “tree,” a cross between a Chia Pet and a Lava Lamp. Tanner watched from his bed while we hung the ornaments and garland. We lugged a small mountain of gifts from the garage, dusted them off (thanks to Eugenie, they’d been wrapped since our Solvang trip in October), and deftly arranged them under the polyester bush, creating the perfect Hallmark moment. Then we left to have a glass of wine with some neighbors. We came home to a scene from The Terminator. The tree was askew. The floor was littered with ornaments. Scraps of soggy wrapping paper were strewn about the room like confetti. In our brief absence, Tanner had clawed his way to the bottom of the pile where we’d stashed some plush dog toys.

From day one he’d been gentle, even nurturing, with his “babies.” Lately, however, he’d started savaging them at an alarming rate. The carnage began one evening when we went to a movie. He was fired up and wanted to play. We thought about bringing him along, but weren’t sure he could handle staying in the car alone. And there was always the puking thing. As we closed the door, he glared at us, annoyed at being left behind with so much fuel in his tank. We returned to find his bed had been ransacked, the sheepskin throw torn to shreds. In the past, he’d accidentally ruined a few toys. With his shark-like jaws some collateral damage was inevitable. This was clearly intentional. And he wasn’t finished. In quick succession he gutted Duckie, decapitated Blooie, and mangled his new bear, nicknamed Un Occhio since he was now missing an eye. Sharpie somehow survived the rampage, but was so disfigured that he could star in Phantom of the OperaHoping to stem the onslaught, we bought Tanner a Konga, a thick, rubber toy the pet store clerk called “indestructible”. He promptly trashed it…and four subsequent replacements. When I complained, the saleswoman threw up her hands.“You might want to skip the toys,” she said, “and just buy him an old Buick.”

Friday, December 13, 2013


At Tanner's urging I wrote a piece for WOOF MAGAZINE's December issue highlighting some of the common cold weather dangers faced by dogs and offering tips on how to keep our 4-legged buddies safe and comfortable. If your dogs face snow and cold temps, give it a look. My sister's 'boys', Aldo (below) and Harley are featured. For safety tips on other perils like heatstroke, rattlesnake bites, and dog aggression, check out the sidebars in GIMME SHELTER.
Aldo, the snow dog

Tuesday, December 10, 2013


While we Californians are mired in the throes of a biting winter cold spell (daytime temps in the low 50s!) Tanner asked me to pass along some tips for avoiding two of the most common and most serious winter dangers for dogs:  Frostbite & Hypothermia.  Frostbite occurs after prolonged exposure to cold temperatures (below 32 degrees Fahrenheit), especially when there’s a high wind-chill factor. When outdoor temps drop, your dog’s body diverts blood to the core organs, leaving the skin and extremities – nose, tail, tips of the ears, and scrotum - at risk of frostbite. Signs are not always visible immediately but symptoms include pale, hard skin that remains cold to the touch once the animal is brought indoors, or swelling and redness once the skim warms. If not covered and treated, frostbite may result in permanent damage. In severe instances, the affected tissue or limb must be removed to avoid potentially fatal infection. Hypothermia can take place when your dog’s core temperature drops below the normal range of 100 and 102.5 F. If it dips to 99 – 90 F, your dog is at risk for mild hypothermia. 90 - 82 F put’s him at risk of moderate hypothermia. Below 82 and he’s in jeopardy of severe, life-threatening hypothermia. Symptoms of hypothermia include slowed pulse, shivering shallow breath, non-responsiveness to stimuli, and collapsing. If your dog shows signs of hypothermia, warm him with a covered water bottle or heated blanket and call your vet immediately.

A little common sense can help prevent both frostbite and hypothermia. As a rule, if you are cold and uncomfortable outdoors, so is your dog. Longhaired dogs like Siberian Huskies tend to handle the cold better than shorthaired dogs like Pit Bulls. Short dogs like Chihuahuas will get colder in deep snow than tall dogs like Mastiffs. Senior dogs, puppies, and sick dogs are more vulnerable to cold-related problems. 

When the mercury plummets, keep your dog inside. If that’s not possible, be sure to provide him with a safe, comfortable doghouse, and plenty of food and water.  A winter doghouse should be weatherproof, well insulated, and just large enough for your dog to lie down and turn around. If his shelter is too large, it will allow his body’s heat to escape. The entrance should be covered, and positioned away from the wind. It should have plenty of thick, clean, dry bedding. For added warmth, you might want to get your dog a sweater or coat, and, if he will tolerate them, booties to protect his feet from frostbite. Even with a doghouse, staying warm requires more energy (calories) than normal. If your dog spends a lot of time outdoors, be sure to increase his food supply, especially his protein intake. Water will freeze in cold weather. To prevent dehydration, use a heated bowl. Dogs’ tongues will often stick to metal bowls so consider using plastic ones instead.
Tanner with cousin Anthony and Delta
While Tanner drew first blood with his 'Thank You' blog, Eugenie and I feel a little 'payback' was in order. So, thanks to Tanner for inspiring me to write GIMME SHELTER 'guarding' us whenever the doorbell rings, even on TV...For nesting under our glass table during our dinner parties…For hogging the heater when it's chilly outside...For loving all of the dogs we meet, even the nasty little ones that deserve a nip…For his enormous, soulful human eyes, his silky ears and his dripping kisses…For humoring us when we play keep away or jump…For graciously surrendering his toys and not lopping off our fingers…For allowing us to drag him along wherever we go, even when it means dealing with the car…For curling up on my lap and making my legs go numb during our long drives…For riding with his head out the front passenger window where I'm forced to endure gale-force winds...For leaping into my bed whenever the Santa Ana winds howl...For all of those delicious cuddles …For making me a kinder, gentler, better man and our home a sweeter, more loving place.
'Thank You', Tanner
Looking for the PERFECT HOLIDAY GIFT for the log-lovers in your life? Tanner thinks that GIMME SHELTER is just the ticket.